Blog 15: Mistaking Kindness for Weakness

Posted on Aug 4, 2012

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Human nature astounds me sometimes … whilst I don’t have any misconceptions that each person will act within their values and have their own set of eyes on every situation, it astounds me most of all that kindness is so often mistaken for weakness.

In starting my first overseas business, after many years of personal growth, spiritual growth, maturing values and the significant knowledge that only in ‘giving’ do we have any true purpose; it was and is my intention to run a business around the values of honesty, kindness, nurturing and growth.

At Bliss Sanctuary for Women the whole concept is about giving women a space to take time out for themselves to self nurture and receive deep rest and connection within a safe, blissful, environment.  This we have done extremely well and for most of our guests they have achieved exactly what they came for and more. Each individuals experience is their own, based on their own unique path in life so far.

It’s the business of staff that has been the most difficult for me to accept. The system of hierarchy as the boss and founder has been a lot more difficult than I ever imagined.

Whilst staff are a support to the business, each has their own agenda and values. And these can change significantly within even the shortest tenure.

From a past employee wanting full control, to take ownership without ownership, managing some parts well and others not at all and resenting direction given … I took full responsibility. As such I expended way too much energy propping up an attitude that started with somebody out of their depth and ended with aggression and lack of respect for any kindness and mentoring given. It ended in disaster, terrible personal and professional disappointment, broken friendships and sabotage on both business and personal levels.

How on earth could this happen?

I trusted, I poured kindness, humility and empathy into the relationship. I did some things wrong and many things right. I was kind.

And this got me nothing but an angry lesson in distancing the personal from the professional.

Not a lesson I was expecting or welcoming.

I doubted myself and started to ponder why kindness is treated as weakness?…

I tried to jump that hurdle and I hit my shins. They became bruised and a small scar has formed. It weakened my ability to jump for a time and then the healing started. Now where the scarring is, there is less pain or the ability to feel pain there again. It is visible only to those who get close enough. Scar tissue.

As soon as this scar healed, other staffing hurdles sprung up. Balinese staff are very different to deal with and they are my family over here in Bali. They were with me from the beginning. We went through everything together. I helped them with family crises, continuous loans, I sent healers for grave illnesses in the family, I gave advice, I employed daughters, I gave money for schooling, I bought dolls and teddy bears and many different toys and clothing, I gave bonuses, they received so many extra tips from guests, they received presents from some special women, they touched peoples lives including mine and I theirs.

When I left them in the hands of different management things changed. To be expected yes. Then I came back and pulled everything back into line. And what a struggle this was.

They used to be thankful for their comparatively high wages and tips, and now some only see the lack in the time they don’t spend with their family. They loved working here but after 15 months they forget that their life used to be very different.  They say they are thankful to me yet they just don’t turn up when needed. They say they love their job yet their attitude has changed to belligerence. They ‘say’ they are thankful yet they do not ‘act’ thankful. Cheating and lying replaced honesty and integrity. Caring for their job within something special such as Bliss turned into disconnection and distance.

I sought personal connection with each staff member. I asked them to breathe love into everything they did. They did this well and we worked as a close knit family from the heart. In time with some, love seemed so easily replaced with resentment and a lack of care. And now for those who have strayed, we have parted ways. So sad.

I tried to make everything to do with work personal.

After all it is a massive part of life.

I thought kindness and love would overcome barriers.

I have since learned that I need to maintain my distance in order to survive and to play the role I need to play. I have learned that making concessions gets me nowhere. I have learned that showing appreciation and kindness often leads to the opposite of commitment and trust. I have learned that kindness can so often be mistaken for weakness.

My heart feels hardened and lifeless.

But this shall pass.

After all how dare I take this personally? Every individual must have their own agenda and sometimes the energy needs to disconnect if we’re not on the same path.

I told Putu once that in life we need to flow like water, around barriers, over the stones people throw, through the dark rocky hearts of people and into the light through the warm surfaces and the depth of the cold underground … whatever life throws at us is irrelevant, it’s how we flow around it that matters.

Easier said than done J

After moving overseas this clearing of people in my life has surpassed the professional into my personal life also.  Some old friends are now distant memories. Connections have become disconnections. Once so energetic and extroverted, I now feel like an introvert. Nothing without a strong foundation has survived this storm of change, and some foundations I thought strong were the first to fall.

And now through the clearing, the rebuilding starts.

Now that I am opening my eyes  I see many relationships still standing.

Beautiful. Strong. Solid.

Some new. Some old.

Some close by. Some in the distance.

I see them with different eyes. I really see them.

I appreciate them.

They are the structure around the rebuilding.

I see their beauty and I see their strength, their intricacies which were hidden by less important relationships.

Only through the space around these relationships can I see deeper and thus become more connected with those still standing.

And importantly there is room for other amazing relationships now.

Solid, supportive, healthy relationships.

Kind relationships.

By showing kindness, those around me have reflected what is true in their hearts. There is no place to hide and they act accordingly.

Those who mistake kindness for weakness are merely reflecting their own weaknesses.

Through the acts of kindness I have been liberated and able to see.

Kindness is not weakness. Kindness shines a light on the truth and allows us to flow in and out of each others life as we should.

I know the next step is to be kind to myself. Only then will I attract the people around me who have kindness, honesty and integrity in their hearts.

Kindness is the most significant expression of inner strength.

Love and blessings, Zoe x